Chronic or Acute Pain


Is My Pain Chronic or Acute?

Only a complete medical examination by a spine specialist can tell for sure, but if you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you are probably dealing with chronic pain.

  • Has your pain lasted longer than three months?
  • Does your pain change in intensity, but you still have pain?
  • Have you tried:
    • Injections?
    • Occasional physical therapy?
    • Chiropractic manipulation?
    • Surgery that did not relieve the pain or worked only for a short time?
  • Are you or someone who cares about you worried that you take too much medication?
  • Do the medications give you less and less relief?
  • Would you like to reduce or stop altogether the pain drugs you are taking?
  • Has your physician said there is nothing more he can do or that surgery is a last resort?
  • Do you feel like you are at the end of your rope?

If you answered “No” to the questions, you probably have acute back or neck pain.

 

Acute Spine Pain Diagnosis and Treatment

The term “acute” means pain that has occurred recently, usually within the last three to four months. Occasionally, acute pain is an emergency situation from a traumatic injury such as a fall or motor vehicle accident.

More often with acute spine pain, the pain comes on rather quickly and has not gone away or worsened with activity or work. Most people seek medical help after the pain has lingered for a while and does not improve.

At the UI Spine Center, the most important first step in diagnosis and treatment is a detailed history of the problem, and a thorough physical exam focusing on the area of the pain.

Only after the history and physical exam do we talk to you about the possible need for other tests such as X-rays or MRI. Many acute spine problems can be diagnosed and treated without X-rays, MRIs or other expensive tests. The vast majority of acute spine symptoms do not come at all from the bones of the spine, but the muscles and soft tissues around the spine.

If your physician in the UI Spine Center determines your need for additional tests, you may be asked to return again. These test may include:

  • X-rays
  • MRI
  • Nerve conduction studies or EMGs
  • CAT scan

Treatment options available for acute spine pain: 

  • Physical therapy from therapists specializing in spine problems
  • Medication management using medications with low potential for addiction or tolerance
  • Peripheral or spinal injections performed by physicians using the latest imaging techniques.
  • Detailed recommendations for work or leisure that promotes healing and allows time to rehabilitate.
  • Surgical options in specific cases.

 

Help is Available for Chronic Back or Neck Pain

  • Has your pain lasted longer than four months?
  • Does your pain change in intensity, location, and cause you to become physically exhausted?
  • Have you tried any treatments including:
    • Injections
    • Occasional physical therapy
    • Chiropractic manipulation
    • Surgery that has not been effective
  • Do you or someone who cares for you worry that you may be taking too much medication?
  • Do the medications not appear to help?
  • Would you like to reduce or stop altogether the medications you are taking for pain?
  • Has your physician said there is nothing more they can do or that surgery is a last resort?
  • Do you feel like you are at the end of your rope?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, the UI Spine Center may be able to help you.

Chronic or long-term back or neck pain is a diagnosis that the Spine Center treats separately from surgical or acute (short term) back pain. Chronic spine pain is a major problem requiring a unique interdisciplinary team treatment program. The Rehabilitation Center for Chronic Spine Pain and our Spine Rehabilitation Program are offered by the Interdisciplinary Spine Rehabilitation Team that specializes in the treatment of chronic spine pain.